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Toxic relationship: What is covert abuse? Signs to be aware of

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Toxic relationship: What is covert abuse? Signs to be aware of

In a toxic relationship, covert abuse can be a dangerous manipulation technique. Unlike overt abuse, covert abuse is not on the surface. Overt abuse uses physical aggression and violence which is easy to segregate and explain. Covert abuse, on the other hand, uses gaslighting and manipulation techniques that can leave us confused and invalidated. The sense of powerlessness can make us frustrated and resentful. “Experiencing covert abuse can be incredibly distressing and disorienting. People often describe feeling confused, invalidated, anxious, and powerless. Recognising the signs of covert abuse and seeking support from trusted, supportive people or professionals is crucial for healing and breaking free from its effects,” wrote Therapist Lucille Shackleton.

Toxic relationship: What is covert abuse? Signs to be aware of
Toxic relationship: What is covert abuse? Signs to be aware of

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Here’s what covert abuse looks like:

Manipulation: It can manipulate us into doubting our thoughts and our version of reality, making us feel confused.

Withdrawing attention: People doing covert abuse can use techniques of withdrawing or ignoring attention from us as a way of punishing us.

Deflect responsibility: In order to get away from taking responsibility, they may blame us for problems and mistakes not made by us.

Guilt-tripping: They may use tactics of playing the victim, or guilt-tripping us to get what they want.

Here’s what covert abuse feels like:

Confusing: With our version of reality constantly challenged, we may start to feel confused about everything.

Invalidating: Our emotions, feelings and experiences are constantly dismissed. This can make us feel invalidated and frustrated.

Anxiety provoking: We are constantly living by the edge anticipating the next attack or manipulation. It can also make us anxious and stressed all the time.

Isolating: When we do not have anyone to share our emotions, we can feel despair and helpless for being stuck in the situation.

Hopelessness: Constant stress and emotional turmoil can rob us of any kind of hope left in having a better life.

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